Earl Thiessen, Jordan Bareshinbone, Geri Bemister
April 13th 2022 11:30 am Nelson Room 1
Culturally appropriate treatment interventions are a way to help Indigenous clients start their individual healing processes. Utilizing ceremony, cultural teachings, and an emphasis on spirituality and reconnection to their identity. Sunrise supports individuals to start their recovery journey using the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, with ceremony and spiritual teachings allowing clients the space to connect to their own Higher Power. Clients are taught about the Three Pillars of Healing; Reclaiming History, Therapeutic Healing, and Cultural Inclusion. Through these Three Pillars, clients can begin learning about the past and how it has impacted them and their families and communities, how to begin the healing process, and how to move forward by being active in their culture and beliefs.
Our people once lived in close-knit communities and taught our children the cultural aspects and traditions of our people as one large community and family. This was slowly taken away through colonization and assimilation. To start our healing journey, we need to heal in a similar manner and provide peer and culturally supported groups and settings.
Oxford House has developed a partnership with Poundmakers Lodge to open the province’s first Peer and Culturally Supported Indigenous Recovery homes for men and women in Calgary and Edmonton. These homes provide cultural support for Indigenous residents to practice their culture in a respectful environment. With the opening of our fifth Indigenous recovery home in Edmonton, we are now the largest Peer/Culturally Supported Indigenous Recovery Home Provider in the Country. We believe this is best practice.
Culturally appropriate treatment interventions are a way to help Indigenous clients start their individual healing process. Utilizing ceremony, cultural teachings, and an emphasis on spirituality and reconnection to their identity. Sunrise supports individuals to start their recovery journey using the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, with ceremony and spiritual teachings allowing clients the space to connect to their own Higher Power. Clients are taught about the Three Pillars of Healing; Reclaiming History, Therapeutic Healing, and Cultural Inclusion. Through these Three Pillars, clients can began learning about the past and how it has impacted them and their families and communities, how to begin the healing process, and how to move forward by being active in their culture and beliefs.
As an Indigenous community, we heal and celebrate through many traditional ceremonies and practices. We smudge to cleanse ourselves daily and to pray for those around us. We engage in talking circles to heal through our words and be allowed to be heard (usually guided by an elder), and we sweat to welcome in the grandmothers, grandfathers, our loved ones and ancestors to join us in ceremony and prayer. Hold Pow Wows to bring the community together and Sundance ceremony to pray for healing. The teachings are endless and are best explained through long meetings and gatherings with elders who are the knowledge keepers of our people.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my recovery journey would lead to me being Executive Director of the Oxford House Foundation. The reality of being homeless for seven years still haunts me. I don’t think many would survive the experiences I had during that time, including incarceration, overdose, and a whole winter sleeping outside because I had no idea of the resources that were available 13+ years ago.
Little did I know that the stars were about to align for me and that this would take place in front of a Justice of the Peace. There were eleven warrants out for my arrest. I decided it was time to get honest. I told the Justice of the Peace about my partner and my addiction issues. I told him that I didn’t know how to deal with it. “I need help,” I said. “My rock bottom was when my partner was murdered.” She is one of the many MMIWAG in Canada.
The Justice of the Peace was a caring and understanding man. The first person to have faith in me. He released me and told me to go get the help I so desperately needed. That was the small window I needed to change my life. I went back to treatment, embraced my aboriginal heritage and moved into an Oxford home in 2008.
“Earl Thiessen has been with Oxford house for 12 years in various positions and assumed the role of Executive Director on July 1, 2019. The developer of Numerous Recovery Housing Models including Pre-treatment housing, Entry Level Housing and the Collaborative (Poundmakers Lodge) Peer Supported Indigenous Recovery Housing Model. From Homelessness to Executive Director, a strong advocate for Recovery, Homelessness and the Peer Supported Recovery Housing Model.
I am from the traditional homelands of the Blood Tribe or Kainai First Nation, which is part of the Blackfoot Confederacy in southern Alberta. I am a graduate of the Solicitor General Staff College in Edmonton, Alberta and my educational background for 25 years was in Criminal Justice. I held positions as a Correctional Officer, Probation Officer, and Criminal Court Worker in Cardston, Lethbridge, Calgary, and served a term of four years with the Blood Tribe Police Commission. I currently reside in Calgary, Alberta and am employed with Sunrise Healing Lodge as a Cultural Initiatives Coordinator. I am a second-generation Residential School survivor and have extensive historical knowledge in Indigenous Culture. I also continue to be actively involved in the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action in a personal and professional healing journey. I am also a person living in long-term recovery from addiction. My role at Sunrise Healing Lodge is to support clients in reconnecting to their Indigenous identity, and helping them begin their own healing journey.
Geri Bemister-Williams is a Professor of Criminology and Law and a Substance Abuse Consultant for Siksika Nation. She provides post-secondary education, expert input, counseling and programming, non-profit board member service, advice on substance use disorders/concurring disorders and at-risk populations. Geri’s portfolio includes family counselling, individual therapy, interventions, public speaking, spiritual guidance, sober living advising, addressing physical and psychological traumas, teaching, child protection and advocacy and first nations issues.
Geri Bemister-Williams was directly recruited and appointed to the Law Enforcement Review Board on the basis of acceptably meeting the competencies, skills and attributes required by the Board.